Austin American-Statesman – September 6, 2015
by Melissa B. Taboada
From the outside, it looks like any other classroom.
But just beyond the yellow door at Crockett High School is a counseling center with a licensed psychologist that offers therapy and mental health services beyond what administrators and high school guidance counselors are usually able to provide.
Crockett’s counseling center was launched in 2012, the first mental health services center in the Austin district. After administrators reported improved student behavior, attendance and academic performance, the district has added counseling centers to a dozen other schools. Anderson and Bowie high schools will get theirs this year, bringing to 15 the total of on-site mental health centers at middle and high schools in the Austin district.
"There are things I didn’t realize it was going to address and change. It has effects that were not even planned,” said Crockett Principal Craig Shapiro, describing a more positive campus climate. "I have this extra layer of support. Those kids are getting the high needs service that they absolutely need to get through. Not only are we helping those kids, now they’re actually going to graduate, whereas prior, we may have lost them through dropout and so forth.”
The U.S. Surgeon General has reported one in five children and adolescents will face a serious mental health problem during their school years.
"A child’s mental health deals with their ability to perform in school,” said Josette Saxon, senior policy associate for mental health for Texans Care for Children. "When the schools are putting supports in place where they can address their students’ mental health needs, it helps the students’ performance in the classroom.”